Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an opportunity each year to not only reflect on the work of one individual who helped change the nation, but to also educate ourselves on ways to continue his mission. This can involve donating to charities that make a difference for those facing prejudice and supporting Black-owned businesses that play an important role in our communities. Luckily in the Finger Lakes, this can also involve discovering a delicious meal! Here are a few places to get started.
- Asempe Kitchen: This Syracuse-based catering and pop-up restaurant offers traditional West African cuisine in addition to vegetarian and vegan options. Chef Kuukua Yomekpe who runs Asempe Kitchen is a first-generation Ghanaian American who is passionate about building community through sharing her food creations, as she describes on Asempe Kitchen’s website. She also offers demos and cooking classes for those curious about the world of West African cuisine, which includes menu items such as “Nkatsi Nkwan (Peanut soup) (a marrying of curry and satay)” and “Red-Red (stewed black-eyed peas).”
2. Philomina’s/Cooking and Eating Healthy with Phil. Be sure to find this eatery the next Saturday you are at the Rochester Public Market! Philomina U. Emeka-Iheukwu is the talented woman behind this establishment. She moved to Rochester from Nigeria in 2008, and this sparked her keen interest in creating recipes that are both healthy and delicious. Her expertise in healthy cooking has allowed her to write books and film a cooking show. Her menu of wholesome food offerings includes Roasted Sweet Potatoes topped with stewed turkey meatballs and Quinoa Veggie Soup—the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle has a great review about her chicken stew. At the Rochester Public Market, you can find her in Shed B, Stalls 31 and 33.
3. Hawi Ethiopian Cuisine: This restaurant in Ithaca, N.Y. offers a great opportunity to experience the rich flavors and unique dining experience of Ethiopian cuisine, which is often eaten with the hands and provides a time to connect with others, according to Hawi’s website. They offer rich chicken, beef, and lamb stews that range from mild to spicy, spongy teff flatbread, and veggie dishes that include collard greens and a variety of root vegetables/legumes. They are currently open 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
4. Forno Di Laura: This bakery and pizza kitchen in Penfield offers a signature biscotti with pistachios and chocolate chips in addition to a range of pizza options. This includes the “Bayside Queens” thin crust and the Detroit-style “Uncle Freddy.” It’s a small business owned by a minority, woman, and veteran—co-owner Laura is the inspiration behind the name and has made her signature biscotti since 2009, according to the eatery’s website.
5. North Star House: This eatery located on 202 East Falls Street in Ithaca focuses on locally-sourced ingredients for its menu. They are best known for their burger and fries, founder Jed Ashton said via email. The beef comes straight from Autumn’s Harvest in Romulus and the potatoes are from Silver Queen Farm in Trumansburg. As of January 19, 2021, they are open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 12 to 7:30 pm. To learn more visit their website.
6. Mushroom Spirits Distillery: For around 12 years, Wendy Rizzo and her husband have sold their locally-grown gourmet mushrooms through Blue Oyster Cultivation at the Ithaca Farmers Market. In October 2020, they started a new endeavor: Mushroom Spirits Distillery. The unique spirits are made using Blue Oyster Cultivation’s artisan mushrooms. Wendy said their most popular products so far are their mushroom-infused vodkas that offer earthy, very “mushroom-forward” flavors. She added they plan to get creative with some fun flavors such as strawberry and maybe vanilla in the future. You can check out this new tasting room on the Cayuga Wine Trail in Seneca Falls by making an appointment. To learn more visit mushroomspiritsdistillery.com.